Keeping Watch

Alan Noble
2 min readApr 20, 2018
Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash

Every time we drove over the long dirt road carved into the desert that stretched on with its sagebrush and joshua trees and dead populars, past the first house which sat far back from the road and was partially hidden behind trash and weeds and where the two kids used to live who ran away because their parents were abusive and shot up the welfare that should have fed them, who were eventually found and made the front page, although one of the kids got bitten by a rattlesnake before he was found and Thank God he lived but he lived elsewhere now thanks to CPS, right before the half-fallen wire fence that marked the beginning of Lloyd’s land, where my aunt would overdose and my cousins would lose a mother and a father and a brother to death, jail, and relocation, respectively, and before the road curved to the left to give you that vision of the “ranch,” more third-world slums than Western Ranch or drug house, I would watch for him.

The plastic soldier, standing at an angle, bayonet thrust forward, a nail driven into his base, securing him to the window ledge in the deserted shack that looked oddly like a guardhouse.

Only, to guard what? For whom? And who was the guard? I supposed it was the soldier. And I wondered if the person who nailed him there meant it as a joke. Or did they imagine him really keeping watch, like I did?

I day dreamed about meeting him, the person who nailed him there, and discovering his world. Perhaps he had hidden plastic soldiers all over the property, bayonets at ready and a nail through their base, and they could all communicate with each other and the man and could watch over me and warn him when our green station wagon was making its way past the guardhouse on the dirt road to where my mother’s family lived.

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Alan Noble

Associate Professor of English, Oklahoma Baptist University, author of Disruptive Witness, You Are Not Your Own, and On Getting Out of Bed (soon).